LONDON: An Estonian tourist who spent more than 100 days living in an airport in the Philippines due to coronavirus travel restrictions is finally returning home, he said on Tuesday.
Roman Trofimov has been living in the departures lounge of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport since March 20, after immigration authorities stopped issuing visas for entry into the country.
He was then stranded in the airport for a total of 110 days until July 7.
In an experience reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ character in the 2004 film “The Terminal,” Trofimov said he was sleeping on the airport floor, eating in its restaurants and washing in public bathrooms before the Estonian consulate arranged for his transfer to a passenger lounge on April 1.
On Tuesday, Trofimov said he was returning to Estonia on a plane landing in Tallinn on July 8.
Trofimov said he was on a “dream trip” traveling around Southeast Asia when coronavirus lockdowns began across the continent. He said his passport was taken by AirAsia staff before going through immigration in Manila on March 20.
He was booked to take an onward flight to Cebu province on the same day, with a return trip to Bangkok booked for April 2. Both flights were canceled as COVID-19 decimated international travel.
Due to entry visas not being issued by Philippine immigration authorities he was denied entry into the country, but the airline he flew in was unable to return him to Thailand as flights were being grounded.
According to Estonian media, Trofimov was traveling on what is known as a “grey passport” for people of “unclear citizenship” — issued to people with residency rights in Estonia who cannot get another passport.
In a statement, the Estonian foreign ministry said: “It is important to note that he flew to the Philippines during a time when countries had announced emergency situations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had given a travel warning.”
Estonian officials told broadcaster ERR they had tried to help Trofimov organize a flight home, but according to reports he initially declined a repatriation flight due to the cost.
Speaking earlier this week, Trofimov said: “I've been stuck here for more than 100 days. I need help getting out.”
He added: “The airline said I need to wait for an ‘Enhanced Community Quarantine’ to be over before I am allowed to fly. I’ve been waiting here ever since.”
The Philippines has almost 48,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,300 people have died from the virus.